Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sunday Fun at Mississippi Studios

Good morning, kids! Like Bob Crachit, I’m “a bit behind my time” this morning, & I don’t even have the excuse of “making somewhat merry” yesterday. Ah well.

It’s Wednesday, of course, so of course we find ourselves in my newly adopted hometown, & in fact quite close to my home. One of the great advantages I enjoy in my place of residence is that I’m only a couple of blocks away from the thriving scene on N. Mississippi Avenue; & one of the most happening places on that very happening street is an exciting music venue: Mississippi Studios.

In fact, the first time a friend showed me around Mississippi Ave, back last September not long after I’d moved to Portland & long before I knew I’d end up settling in this part of town, Mississippi Studios was one of the places he particularly pointed out. Since moving here in November, I’ve had it in mind to go there, so when I learned a while back that banjoist Abigail Washburn would be playing there Sunday night, I jumped on buying a ticket.

I’ve written about Abigail Washburn before in the context of Banjo Friday, & I have to say this was an excellent show—Washburn was performing with Kai Welch, a recent touring partner (see video below), & Welch is an excellent musician, singer & songwriter in his own right, as he accompanied Washburn’s banjo on guitar, keyboards & trumpet. If you know Abigail Washburn’s music, you know she’s an innovator—the banjo seems particularly fortunate these days to have so many innovative performers making a strong case for the instrument outside its usual contexts of bluegrass & old-time. Of course, Washburn draws elements from the Americana tradition in her powerful songwriting, but she also draws elements from other diverse sources as well, including of course, Chinese folk music.

The opening acts were local musicians who made a strong case for the strength & vibrancy of the local scene. Casey Neill was the opener, & he treated the audience to several songs in the country-folk vein. Neill was followed by Calico Rose, & I was completely smitten with them—great musicality & energy, with harmonies in the Carter Family tradition (not to mention Cateresque autoharp on one song!), & extremely impressed by the songwriting. Calico Rose is Annalisa Tornfelt, Anita Robinson, & Kate O'Brien-Clarke, each of whom also plays in other Portland bands: Black Prairie, Viva Voce & AgesandAges respectively. I’ve already bookmarked a couple of their upcoming shows!

The venue itself is beautiful—really quite an intimate space, with gorgeous acoustics—as I understand, it’s a renovated old church, & I know from my own modest performing experience how great the acoustics in those old churches can be.  This space is no exception. There’s seating both on the main floor & both seating & standing room in a wrap-around balcony above—tho I understand that for some shows the main floor is mostly standing.

I was surprised to learn that Mississippi Studios is not that old—it opened in 2009—because it has the feel of a place that’s homey. I love the fact that the venue makes space for both nationally known acts like Abigail Washburn (& for instance Michelle Shocked later this month), but also gives generous exposure to local musicians as well.

Besides the concert venue itself—which does include a bar—there’s also BarBar next door to the venue, & part of the overall business. This is an eatery that specializes in burgers & other such classic American fare. There’s also patio seating for BarBar.

& this is all a 5-minute walk away (if that!) What a life.

Pix: Exterior Shots by yours truly; interior shots link to their source on the Mississippi Studios site


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed the video at the end, and feeling like we got to come along to the concert as you describe the venue and the other performers. I'll look up some of them too (Washburn really is a great musician - I've started listening to other youtube videos of her).

    1. Hi HKatz: Oh my--sincere apologies for missing this lovely & friendly comment! I've been a bit "away" from the blog as perhaps you can tell. Yes, Abigail Washburn is indeed very good. I think at least one or two of those local bands tours, so maybe you'll get to see them at some point! Thanks so much for this comment & for all the support you've given to RFB over time! : )


Thanks for stopping by & sharing your thoughts. Please do note, however, that this blog no longer accepts anonymous comments. All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience.